There are numerous myths about casual sex. Men and women react to it exactly the same in the buildup to it, during the act, and in its aftermath.
Casual sex is linked to negative mental health outcomes, but only in certain kinds of people:
People who were drunk or drugged during the encounter or acted under peer pressure (no autonomy); with conservative or traditional or religious upbringing and moral code or in societies with such mores; people who violate promises, boundaries, rules, and vows they have made to themselves (personal integrity) or to others; who get attached to sex partners or develop long-term expectations of a relationship; and those older than 40.
These profiles of participants in casual sex are likely to experience shame, embarrassment, guilt, depression, lower self-esteem, anxiety, regret, and memory gaps following the romp.
All others react with excitement, satisfaction, and even pride to their reaffirmed desirability and to the modicum of palliative affection, comfort, attention, acceptance, fleeting intimacy and closeness that is ineluctably involved in voluntary casual sex.
Casual sex allows singles to regulate their sex lives and satisfy their curiosity and need for variety. Still, it invariably involves objectifying the partner: most true casual sex is near anonymous.
All animals practice sex without intimacy or emotions and the human animal is no exception.
So, why the righteous brouhaha about it?
1. Speciesism: Humans are superior to animals and should never give in to their animal nature but rather transcend it. It is a form of grandiosity, fostered originally by religious teachings.
2. Conflating and confusing lust and love, emotional intimacy with physical intimacy. Casual sex amounts to masturbating with the body of a nearly anonymous partner, an animated dildo, a sophisticated and unpredictable sex doll, replete with smells and tastes. It has nothing whatsoever to do with sex in a committed, loving relationship.
3. Being in love with infatuation itself, being addicted to falling in love. Some people "fall in love" with their sexual partners, even after a one night stand. This complicates matters and leads to heartbreak that is best avoided altogether.
The only thing that seriously bothers and worries me about casual sex (and I have had my share) is that it has become the norm, the standard practice ("hookup culture") among those born after 1995.
It may affect their ability to form meaningful intimate relationships (the jury is out on this one). It definitely predisposes the members of these generations to regard sex as nothing more significant than other bodily functions and renders them way more prone to cheating (up dramatically among both genders) and to reckless sexual behaviors also linked to substance abuse.
The preponderance of emotionless sex is the problem - not the act itself.
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